By Jacques Peuchet
Translated by James Bair
This is the story from the police files which inspired Alexandre Dumas to write The Count of Monte Cristo. I was not able to find an English translation so I am contributing this. Suggestions are welcome.
Because of problems with copying and copyright considerations (my own, not someone else's!), I have thought it best to take the file down. It is still available on request. I have left the first couple of pages to give you an idea of its content. Anyone interested in a full copy in PDF format, please go to the English Plus Donation for the Diamond and Vengeance E-Book page and send us a donation. We will e-mail you an e-book of the whole thing. In addition we will include a second story from Peuchet which inspired one of the major subplots in The Count of Monte Cristo. It is called “A Family Crime.”
Thank you for your forbearance and consideration. JB
The police files are an abyss where everything gets buried. They are darker and more instructional than a confessional because the penitents never come out of the police files. These files hold a registry of everything: vices, crimes, evil acts, infamies, heroism, kindness, generosity, and glaring mistakes. The number of things they know is immense. In the middle of all these hidden stories, I laid my hands on a dossier about an affair whose details were scattered among thirty reports, official notes, police reports, and interrogations. From this dossier I extracted the following adventure which I bequeath to my readers as one of the most unusual they have ever read in these memoirs.
An Abandoned Wedding
In Paris in 1807 there lived a shoemaker—a simple, self-employed laborer—by the name of François Picaud. This poor devil, a young and handsome boy, was about to marry a gracious, attractive, and lovely young lady who delighted him immensely. As is the case among many of his class who get to choose their own mates, he was convinced she was unique among all women. Among such people, the only way to truly love such a woman is to marry her. As soon as she consented to his proposal, François Picaud, dressed in his Sunday best, hurried to a nearby restaurant to share the news with his friend, the restaurant owner. His friend was a young man of his same age and social rank but somewhat richer than the shoemaker and known for a ferocious jealousy of anyone who seemed to be more successful than he was.
Matthew Loupian, born at Nîmes[i] like Picaud, ran a very popular Parisian diner next to Saint-Opportune.[ii] He was already a widower and had two children by his deceased wife. Three regulars—all three natives of the Gard province and all three acquaintances of Picaud—were with him.
“Hey, what do you know?” exclaimed the master of the establishment, “Look at Picaud! I have never seen him so excited! They say you are dancing the treilhas!” (The treilles is a popular dance of Languedoc.)
“I am doing better than that, my Loupian: I am getting married!”
“And whom have you chosen to plant horns[iii] in your head?” asked one of the others named Allut.
“It must be the second daughter of your mother-in-law, because in that family you only have to whisper the word, and horns will have poked up through your hat!”
They looked at him. Picaud’s jest caused a brief grimace on Allut’s face as the jokers passed by a repairman with worn out shoes.
“Teasing aside,” said the restaurateur, “who is the lucky woman, Picaud?”
“Mademoiselle de Figoreux.”
“Marguerite, the rich heiress?”
“She’s the one.”
“But she is worth a hundred thousand francs!” cried the café owner in astonishment.
“I will pay her back in love and happiness. Anyway my friends, I invite you to the mass at St. Leu and to the dance after the reception which will take place at the Champêtre Ball in Venus’s Grove, Rue des Ours, at the ballroom of the dance master Mr. Latignac, fifth room from the end.”
The four friends could say little more than a few insignificant words because the happiness of their comrade stunned them so much.
“When is the ceremony?” asked Loupian.
“The day after tomorrow?”
“I am counting on you. See you soon. I am going to City Hall and then to the priest’s house!”
They watched him leave.
“Is he happy or what, that silly boy!”
“He must have used witchcraft on her.”[iv]
“She’s quite a beautiful girl, and quite rich, too!”
“To a nobody!”
“And this Tuesday is the wedding!”
“I promise,” said Loupian, “to delay the celebration.”
“How will you do it?”
A Short Biographical Note on Jacques Peuchet
Peuchet (1758-1830) was a prolific writer and
researcher. He first became famous for his Encyclopedia of Commerce, an early
work of economics that caught the attention of Benjamin Franklin, among others.
He later became something of a criminologist, writing studies on Suicide (which
were translated into German by Karl Marx) and other essays on crime and
criminal law. James Madison noted some of Peuchet’s
research in his writing. (How many writers could claim to have influenced both
the main framer of the Constitution of the
[i] Nîmes, the Gard,
Today this is a pedestrian square in the heart of the shopping and cultural
district of Paris. A book published in
[iii] Horns. In
[iv] Used witchcraft. In French, this can also mean “be overdressed.” The jealousy of Loupian does suggest the men might blame Picaud’s success on sorcery, but we are also told Picaud was in his Sunday best. A note to one French abridgement believes it meant they were mocking him for being overdressed and out of his class, but three other commentaries seem to indicate this was a bitter suggestion that Picaud must have won Marguerite’s love in some underhanded manner with black magic.
Copyright©2004-2008 James Bair, All rights reserved.